Ezra 1 – Our Sovereign Lord
As we begin this study, may I recommend that you read through the chapter before reading my notes please? I am only highlighting certain parts of each one, so I want to make sure you have the context I’m speaking about in mind.
Though this is a short chapter, it is loaded with God’s character and action. What a testimony of His grace as the first round of exiles are called home.
- “The word of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled.” (Ezra 1:1)
We are reminded in Scripture that God will always fulfill His plans and follow through with His Word. We can find the words this prophet spoke about in the book of Jeremiah. This especially highlights the portion I shared in last week’s faith post:
“For this is what the LORD says:
‘When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise to this place. For I know the plans I have for you’ – this is the LORD’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you” – this is the LORD’s declaration – ‘and I will restore your fortunes (end your captivity) and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you’ – this is the LORD’s declaration. ‘I will restore you to the place I deported you from.’” Jeremiah 29:10-14
- “The Lord God of heaven,” (Ezra 1:2)
The Lord can use anyone to fulfill His plans, even those who don’t follow Him. King Cyrus believed Yahweh was real, and feared Him to a certain extent, but he also served other gods. However, he realized that it was this God that had given him reign over various nations and appointed him to rebuild Yahweh, “a house at Jerusalem in Judah.” (Ezra 1:2) The LORD spoke very clearly to this pagan king and put him in charge because He knew Cyrus would listen to Him.
Proverbs 21:1 – “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.”
- “LORD, God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3 highlights added.)
Though the people abandoned their God and therefore their land, the LORD did not. The land had its Sabbath rest and the LORD was presently residing there, though with no “house.”
“This fulfilled the word of the LORD through Jeremiah, and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until seventy years were fulfilled.” 2 Chronicles 36:21
The LORD is everywhere and sees everything, but He spoke in this context as a way to easily explain it so people could relate, and to use it to call His people back to the land He promised them.
- “So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites – everyone God had motivated – prepared to go up and rebuild the LORD’s house in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:5)
Interesting to note that the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi were the first groups to return to Jerusalem. Judah became the “firstborn” in Jacob’s family. Reuben lost his right as a firstborn when he slept with his father’s concubine (Genesis 49:4). Simeon and Levi were next in line, but both of them lost the title because they slaughtered all the men in Shechem after the prince raped their sister. Their father Jacob replied to them,
“You have brought trouble on me, making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. We are few in number; if they unite against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” Genesis 34:30
Their anger led them to receiving a curse from Jacob rather than a blessing (Genesis 49:5-7). The Lord eventually dissolved Simeon’s inheritance into the land of Judah. Levi was scattered throughout Israel, never claiming their own inheritance. The Lord dedicated them to being His servants and maintaining the temple and the sacrifices on behalf of all Israel, instead of having every firstborn from every tribe of Israel do it.
Benjamin was the last born of the family of Jacob/Israel.
Therefore, the Lord called the first and the last, and those who were needed to work in the temple, back to Jerusalem before returning the rest of the tribes of Israel back home.
All of these people from Judah, Benjamin, and Levi would have also been the ones with the specifications of the temple building because King Josiah (one of the last kings of Israel prior to exile) had the Law read aloud to these people before they went into exile. Some of their parents/grandparents would have shared this with their children.
- “…Everyone God had motivated…” (Ezra 1:5b)
The word “motivated” in my Bible’s commentary in Hebrew means “ruach” here, which is described as, “Spirit, stir up, awake, incite.” I’ve also heard “ruach” described as the breath of God/Holy Spirit. An awakened spirit came upon the people He had stirred up to return home.
- Through King Cyrus, the LORD provided the first round of exiles with the necessary means to return and begin rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1:6-11). According to my commentary, it took them approximately four months to arrive in Judah as they had approximately 900 miles to travel between Babylon and Jerusalem!
The Lord knew how much time was needed for the Israelites/Jews to stay in exile before they would soften their hearts and be willing to follow Him again. The long way home would have given them plenty of time to think, to recount God’s faithfulness and provision, and to realize that hope wasn’t lost. He preserved His people as He said He would, and now it was time to fulfill the plans He had spoken about through His prophets.
Let this encourage you when you struggle with doubt and unbelief. God will always follow through with His word – always!